THE OBJECT OF THEIR DESIRE

WOULD-BE POWER COUPLE TOM AND LINDA RAWLES WANT VOTES MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE

Tom wonders, "Do you have to earn your way, do you have to go up a step at a time, do you have to play the game, do you have to be part of an inner cadre of a group of people who are going to anoint their leaders, or do you have a right to step up and say this is what I believe and this is what I can do, and take your chances?"

"If somebody doesn't want to vote for me because I've lived here three years, that's their right," Linda says.

Manjula Vaz, who's worked for Tom since he was elected to the Board of Supervisors, says the Rawleses "will ignore perception."

Vaz learned a valuable lesson about perception last year, when she attended a campaign-related event in Washington, D.C., with Linda. A paperwork snafu led to the perception that Vaz was helping Linda on county time; Vaz insists Tom had cleared vacation time for her. "I now can recognize perception," says Vaz, who is careful to stay away from the "Linda Rawles for Congress" campaign. When Linda Turley came to work for the county, Vaz was concerned about appearances, because Manda Turley, Linda's daughter, is Linda Rawles' campaign manager. Vaz double-checked, and was told there was no legal conflict.

Tom, however, has immersed himself in Linda's campaign. That meant trouble last summer, when it was reported that Professional Medical Transport Inc. received a county contract after company associates gave $11,000 to Linda's campaign.

Subsequent reports detailed contributions from others who have county interests but--quizzically--don't live in CD1. For example, landowners and lawyers in the west-side community of Laveen donated money at about the time a decision was made to consider eliminating Laveen's flood-plain designation, an action that assures higher land values.

Last May, the Phoenix Gazette reported that one-third of Linda's contributions were tied to people with county business. The Rawleses deny any wrongdoing. It's hard to find traditional Republican fund-raising sources who don't have some connection with the county, Tom says. "You could make a connection between any of these people [campaign donors] and the county," Linda says.

But even if nothing's illegal, there's always the perception . . .
"Yeah," Tom says, "I've thought about pulling back. And what I eventually concluded is, A) I've done nothing wrong, B) I will do nothing wrong and C) I believe in Linda and I will do everything I can to help her. That doesn't mean that I will twist anyone's arm for a contribution . . ."
"Which we never have done," Linda interjects.
Tom: "And, in fact, if anybody knows me, I'm a horrible fund raiser. . . . I've never used the power of my office for a contribution. I've never called up anybody and said, 'You want something? You're gonna have to come through for Linda.'"

Tim Hogan, executive director of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, says that while there may be nothing illegal about the Rawleses' activity, it doesn't appear to be in the public's best interest. Most likely, there will never be a definitive answer as to whether Tom misused his position at the county, Hogan adds, because contributors won't want to admit they were using Tom.

"There isn't going to be anyone coming forward saying they made a contribution to Linda's campaign in exchange for Tom Rawles' vote. That isn't gonna happen," Hogan says. "You'll never be able to prove it. It just looks bad. . . . If she's elected, I assume we'll see this go in reverse, too."
Hogan recognizes that elected officials solicit contributions for other candidates all the time, but he believes judgment is clouded when family members are involved.

He says, "When I'm doing something on behalf of my spouse, I take a much more personal interest in it, and I want to see it succeed in a way that I don't for other people."

@rule:
@body:Around town, tongues continue to flap the tale that Linda's only running to clear a path for Tom, who will run for higher office--Congress or governor--in 96 or 98. Both deny this, although they do admit that Tom runs the show.

Except for when Linda's yelling at Tom, telling him that if he doesn't exercise, he'll end up like Skip Rimsza, the 39-year-old Phoenix mayoral wanna-be who just underwent triple-bypass surgery.

"Linda claims that I am the leader of the pack. It relates to the [family] dogs. . . . She'll tell the dogs, 'Do this, do this, do this, do this,' and they won't do it. But I'll look at them and say--like I did with this one--Don't even think about it.' And she stops dead," Tom says, motioning to Pharaoh, frozen at his feet.

"The dogs look at Tom as the leader. Definitely," Linda says.
So does she, and so does Clayton. Tom says he's giving Linda a break in the discipline department, which she's done alone as a single mom for 12 years. Clayton was instrumental in her decision to run, Linda says, recalling his remarks when she first broached the idea of running.

"He said, 'I'd rather you go [to Congress], Mom, than Tom.' Tom still rubs that in," she says, laughing.

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